Monday, 23 January 2017

"Lady Columnist"

When I posted my most recent CR column on Facebook, two friends asserted that I was "brave." This reminded me of the time I mentioned the right to life during a "Classics of Christian Spirituality" lecture, and a  male classmate muttered the same thing to me after class. At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but he explained that there had been middle-aged women tutting and sighing at the back of the classroom. However, my thought was that if you can't express pro-life sentiments in a Roman Catholic theology school, where CAN you express them?

The same goes for defending Catholic doctrine on the sacraments in a Catholic newspaper and there comparing our modern laissez-faire attitude regarding sexual sin with the beliefs of the Fatima seers. You would not think that this would shock the Catholic readership, but lo. I have been sneered at on Facebook by someone who feels I have "skipped over Jesus" to focus on "visions and sin." Whoa. Is that how we talk about Fatima now?

Naturally I clicked on my critic's name and discovered that he is a recently retired schoolteacher who is very interested in a number of causes associated with the left. This amuses me, as this stalwart of social justice referred to me as a "lady columnist." Not a columnist, mind you, but a LADY columnist. You know, a conservative or traditionalist Catholic would think twice about using the expression "lady columnist", for fear of being thought sexist.

The feminist revolution swiftly followed the sexual revolution for a reason. I suspect this reason is that men drawn to left-wing causes treated women so much worse than ordinary conservative men who wanted to get married and have kids that women figured that they had nothing left to lose.

Anyway, I suppose "lady columnist" is a relatively minor insult although it certainly grabbed my attention. Of all the aspects of my writing--and I have been writing a biweekly column in that paper for nine years--why focus on my sex?

Is it still unusual for a woman to be a columnist? You would think not, but apparently only 10%-20% of opinion pieces in  "legacy" newspapers are women. This rises to 33% in "new media outlets." There are various theories as to why this is so. I once read somewhere that women don't like putting ourselves out where other people will criticize us. That I can believe. My career more-or-less began with a spirited review of a tome of feminist theology I really hated, and the (female) writer went berserk.

Of course, the reader may have focused on my sex because the column features a (relatively) pretty, nine-years-out-of-date photograph and he's a guy. Maybe not a very intellectual guy because if I were a guy, and I were uncomfortable with something I had written, I would call me a "reactionary" or a "spiritual terrorist who wants to drag us back to the days of dread of God and fear of hell." But on the other hand, what do I know? If I were a guy, I might focus on the pretty photo.

Not that I am anywhere  near the Martha Gellhorn class, but I am reminded of what an amazing journalist she was and how now mostly she is remembered for being Hemingway's third wife. I was thinking about her--and other female war correspondents--when I forced myself to wriggle through thousands of Polish nationalists to confront the one carrying an American flag. As a matter of fact, if you're going to be a foreigner at a right-wing Polish rally, it's a good idea to be female because Poland, for good and ill, is still a chivalrous country. Being a young and pretty female would be ideal, but if you can't swing that, female is enough.

All the same, I was terribly frightened until I faced the chap with the American baseball cap and the American flag and saw that he was, if anything, even more afraid of me. Some tense situation had broken out around him, and so I wriggled back to my de facto bodyguard instead of smiling brightly and asking "Amerykański?"  Thinking about this adventure makes me feel better about being called a "lady columnist" although I wouldn't say I am a tower of physical courage. For one thing, I'm too chicken to learn how to drive. For another, I'd never try to get a story out of makeshift migrant camp in France.


  1. Don't take it personally. I'm surprised you haven't noticed before that people of left-wing sympathies regularly resort to using sexist, racist, homophobic and generally offensive language when engaging with people they regard as conservative. I think it's because they believe that, being sexists and racists etc. ourselves (in their view) we *deserve* to be called by such names. After all, they assume, it's how us conservatives talk about people.


    1. To be honest, the alt-right do. But I know what you mean, and I agree.

  2. Your aside about the "spirited review of a tome of feminist theology I really hated" made me realize you might be one of the people I ought to talk to... I'm just starting on my MA in Theology (and for various reasons - mostly $ - I'm not doing it at a Catholic school) - but I am VERY annoyed that the bulk of female Catholic theologians I can find are so VERY FAR from being orthodox. Do you have any suggestions about what direction to look to be able to find what Catholic women are out there doing theology in a orthodox manner?

    1. Oh golly. Well, I believe some of my blog readers are female theologians. Let me think. Oh! Anyone about to be fired from any of the John Paul II Institutes for the Family (i.e. anyone hired over three years ago) might be worth checking out. I will consult one of the 45 Theologians and get back to you.

    2. Thanks... I almost forgot to check back... I KNOW they are out there, but how to exactly go about finding them (without just randomly trying to read tons and tons of female authors in Catholic theology journals) is about to blow my little librarian brain (which is why I'm extra frustrated because I feel like I OUGHT to know better ways to search for this, but everything I can come up with requires going through so much stuff by hand, that someone working full time AND taking graduate classes, just doesn't have time for - but would have been my methodology back when I was in grad school full time when I was getting my MLS.)

    3. Look for women who deal in the history of the Church without being overly interested in women, unless what they are most interested is conventual life. I know a historian who specialized in cloistered medieval Benedictines and is now fully professed cloistered medieval Benedictine herself. Look also for women who are interested in Saint Thomas Aquinas. But as for dogmatics (systematics), have a look at the faculty members of institutions adored by the Cardinal Newman society and then look for their publications.

      Part of your frustration may stem from the fact that women who are not nuns are rarely so impractical as to work towards PhDs in theology, and even more rarely do not fall victim to the siren call of feminism. Oh, that reminds me: Saint Edith Stein, of course, wrote the first Theology of Woman and a major influence on Saint John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem. Any woman working seriously on Saint Edith Stein's work and has a great love for the saint, is probably orthodox in her views. If you like Phenomenology, Saint Edith is definitely for you.

      If I decided to "finish my doctorate", I would do it in Poland, frankly, so this would depend on winning the UK lottery (and B.A. consenting to live in Poland part of the year). I wouldn't bother with finding female theologians, myself, because I don't care if a theologian is male or female so long as he or she is orthodox and sympathetic.

    4. Gotcha. No I'm just interested in finding the women out of a way to prove that they're out there is all. Otherwise, I could care less whether a theologian is male or female either - I would just like to consider doing some work that would highlight that the Elizabeth Johnson's of the world are not the only Catholic women out there. But I do get why that would be rare. (Although it did just remind me that I am acquainted with a religious sister (of a very orthodox sort with habits even if they're not cloistered nuns) whom while her phd is in biblical studies (I'm assuming), is certainly the kind of person I ought to be talking to, used to teach in a seminary, etc, brilliant, brilliant woman.)